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Portable vs FES – The Best Version Explained | Persona 3

Determining the best version of Persona 3 has been the source of debate in the community for a long time. Like any other topic, there will always be those that favour the source experience and those that prefer the new. Things get a little more complicated however, because Portable isn’t just an update for a different console, and FES itself was already an updated version of the original. The general consensus is that both of these versions improve upon the original, but which of the two is considered to be the best? Read our take on the situation below.

Persona 3 Portable Features

Persona 3 Portable

Persona 3 Portable is the final version of P3 that was released by Atlus. Were it not given away by the title, this is a title made for the PSP, or Playstation Portable. Given that it’s the final version of the game, this was designed to capture the best of the previous titles in the series, those being the base P3 game and FES, and wrap them all up into one package.

Concessions had to be made to achieve this, because the PSP was a less powerful console than the PS2, but to make up for this a great deal was added to the game. Gone are full motion video sections, but a female protagonist route with significant changes was added. Similarly, any travel outside of Tartarus is done via menu rather than in a 3D environment, but Tartarus progress is improved by allowing direct control of all party members. These, combined with Persona 4 cameos, more difficulty levels and exclusive music tracks should make it rather obvious that the developers intended that this be the ultimate version of Persona 3.

Portable Pros

  • All party members can be controlled in battle, which allows for a great degree of control. The Tactics option from the original and FES can even be used, if desired.
  • Female protagonist was added and fully playable from the start. This route features different social links, exclusive interactions and characters.
  • Movement outside of Tartarus is controlled by simply clicking on a location. Some players prefer this, since it removes the time sink element of simply running from one world location to another.
  • A greater selection of difficulty levels, to accomodate players of all skill levels.
  • Exclusive musical tracks were written and included in Portable, though most can only be heard via the female protagonist route.
  • Portable also includes appearances of characters from Persona 4. Some may consider this immersion breaking, however we enjoyed their inclusion, since they do not interfere with the story at all.
  • It’s worth noting that a Nintendo Switch version of Persona 3 is currently being rumoured, and the version being discussed is indeed Portable.

Portable Cons

  • Lacking in FMV sequences, which leaves the majority of exposure to text and some small in-game scenes.
  • The additional control given in battle can make the game seem quite easy, especially to a series veteran. This is because a lot of the game is still balanced for the Tactics system.
  • Does not include ‘The Answer’, which is an additional portion of story that is exclusive to FES.


Persona 3 FES Features

Persona 3 FES

Persona 3 FES is itself an expansion upon the original title, Persona 3. It was released approximately one year following the base game, and expanded upon the original by including a new story piece, namely The Answer, which mainly expands the information surrounding one particular character. Given that it’s featured on the same console as the base game, and is considered more of an expansion by the developers, it’s easy to simply consider this as Persona 3 ‘Plus’.

It does feel rather harsh to compare this title to Portable if we’re honest. It is after all an older version, one that we assume the developers felt was improved upon when releasing the portable version. It does have significant benefits, namely the FMV and additional story line points, but none of these were deemed important enough to make the jump to Portable, leaving us questioning whether they’re truly necessary. Similarly, the restricted battle system, in which non-player characters are given tactics rather than direct orders, is rather unusual for an RPG game such as this. 

FES Pros

  • The inclusion of FMV scenes really does add to the emotion of some scenes.
  • Features ‘The Answer’ additional story piece, and whilst this is not truly necessary to understand Persona 3, it is a valuable addition to the game.
  • Potentially more balanced in battle, since this is the game that the Tactics battle system was designed around. This certainly makes things more challenging.
  • In general, FES looks better than Portable, due to the limitations of the PSP hardware.
  • Having to run around the map outside of Tartarus does give FES more of an organic feel, though it is more time consuming.

FES Cons

  • The lack of party member control will be grating, especially to players coming over to P3 from more modern Persona games. 
  • Whilst The Answer is valuable in terms of additional content, it’s not strictly meaningful for every player of the base game, given that choices can influence how much attachment is apportioned to one character.
  • Technically, you can simply turn the Tactic system on in Portable, so players can experience this in both titles, should they wish.
  • Only has access to the canon, male protagonist route.
  • Whilst this route has an additional story in the form of the Answer, it does lack the additional content noted in P3P, namely more difficulty levels, P4 cameos and more musical tracks.


Verdict – Portable vs FES

Persona 3 Portable is the best version of Persona 3, at least in our opinion. The inclusion of a female protagonist allowed the developers to really explore the social link possibilities, significantly expanding on the personal relationships that get formed, and there are enough changes present to easily justify a second playthrough to experience it all.

At the end of the day, our decision is helped greatly by considering what we really miss out on. No overworld movement isn’t a big deal, The Answer is extra content but nowhere near as transformative as the FEMC route, and the perceived lack of difficulty in Portable can be countered by well, raising the difficulty level to a new high. In the end, the benefits of P3P far outweigh those found in FES, making the eventual choice rather easy for us. Of course, the best option overall is to play both titles and experience it all, but pricing is rather prohibitive these days.

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